With love to children: II Convention of children with special needs held in Rivne eparchy of the UOC

Despite the difficult weather conditions – ice and strong wind – on Thursday, December 8, autos with children who need special attention and support began to arrive at the premises of the St. Nicholas Convent of Gorodok. There are several hundred disabled children in the Rivne region; however, the clergy of the eparchy of Rivne involved only 20 percent to take part in the convention.

We are planning to reach out to as many special children as possible next year. To be honest, we do not dare to do it now, because we lack relevant experience and practice. After all, these children with complicated diagnoses require a voluntary and medical support; the complexity also arises during transportation: some children have bulky wheelchairs that normally do not fit passenger cars, – says Archpriest Basil Nachev, the head of the social department of the Rivne eparchy.

As expected, the work of the II Convention of children with special needs started with a prayer. Then the participants, together with the volunteers, parents and the priests, moved to a special room, where almost five hours with a lunch break they had a lively talk, made Christmas ornaments, worked with a psychologist and spoke about their successes and victories. In particular, for Elena and her three-year-old grandson Eugene, this is the second meeting of the kind. During the first convention, which took place in the village of Onishkovtsy on the Source of Holy Righteous Anna in the summer, her grandson tried to walk, bite and clench a fist.

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During the religious procession around the Source of Holy Righteous Anna, Zhenia made his first 10 steps – before he had not stood on the legs. For me it was such a miracle that I even cried. We prayed hard the Mother of God to regulate, and then suddenly on one day we saw so much progress in the development of the child. Then the boy squeezed the ball given by volunteers in his hands, before he could not hold anything in his hands, all fell out. Another victory was in the evening when each child was treated with a slice of watermelon. I also took a slice, put the watermelon to Eugene’s lips in hope that he could at least suck it. However, he began to bite and chew it, this the child had also never done before, - says the grandmother of three-year-old Eugene, who from birth has had cerebral palsy.

For the work to go smoothly and be more effective, the children were divided into two groups according to their age. The junior just sat on the floor working with a psychologist, the senior, together with volunteers of NGO "Dialogue", pasted, shaped and painted Christmas decorations.

Art therapy helps to relieve muscle spasticity. All children, regardless of age, have a problem with that. Arm movements of the majority are uncertain, someone absolutely cannot hold a pencil or a brush, so we’ve chosen a special complex of activities that attract them to work on themselves, - says Tamara Matiukh, a volunteer of the NGO "Dialogue".

Twenty-four-year-old Konstantin Melnik does not fall under the category of "children" any more. To the convention he was brought by a priest from Ostroh, who is aware of the guy’s difficult situation. The young man lives almost alone, his elder brother, who makes his family, moved to Kiev in order to earn a living. Kostia operates only with the right hand; the left one has been completely immobile since he was 14.

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When I was 4 years old, my mother died, my father abandoned us and we secure a living on our own now. At the age of 14, I had a stroke, which completely paralyzed my left side. Kiev doctors said that chances to survive were very few – less than 10% but I’m still alive. Of course, it can be difficult sometimes, but I do not give up. Faith in God and such concerned people as I have met here, at the convention, help to live on, - says Konstantin Melnik.

While the children really enjoyed creative master-classes, the parents who came with most of the participants needed comfort and communication. The priests willingly talked with them, answering questions, giving advice and spiritual guidance.

In particular, Archpriest Basil Nachev focused on the story of man's will, which the Lord does not limit and gives an opportunity to decide: to be with God or to live without Him.

No doubt, in the world there is a lot of pain and suffering. Something can be explained by selfishness or hatred. Something cannot even be justified. But God offers Himself to us. God let us know that He also endured life and knows our pain and our needs. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said: "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions ... And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, so that you also may be where I am." There will always be reasons for fear, anxiety, but God can give His peace, which is greater than any problems in our lives. He is, in the end, God, Creator. One Who has always existed. One Who created the Universe with only one word.

At the end of the II Convention of the Rivne eparchy, the children, together with the priests and volunteers, decorated a Christmas tree in the courtyard of the convent with toys, self-made during master-classes. Then all together they wrote wishes on cards for St. Nicholas and set a symbolic fire of love. Ten-year-old Victoria from the town of Gorodok, Rivne region, holding a candle in her hands, addressed the heartfelt words to all the participants of the convention. The girl cannot walk on her own and spends most of the time at home, with her family, so she asked to meet as often as possible and thanked for warmth and sincerity of communication, during which she managed to make friends with a girl and get a lot of fun and excitement.


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